Understanding oral microbiota programming attracts increasing interest due to its importance for oral health and potential associations with systemic diseases. Here the oral microbiota was longitudinally characterized in children from 2 days (n = 206) to 5 years of age and in young adults (n = 175) by sequencing of the v3-v4 region of the 16S rRNA gene from saliva extracted DNA. Alpha diversity increased by age, with 2-day- and 3-month-old infants in one sub-group, and 18-month- and 3-year-old children in another.

Firmicutes decreased up to 3 years of age, whereas Proteobacteria, Actinobacteria, Bacteroidetes and Fusobacteria abundances increased. Abiotrophia, Actinomyces, Capnocytophaga, Corynebacterium, Fusobacterium, Kingella, Leptotrichia, Neisseria and Porphyromonas appeared from 18-months of age. This was paralleled by expansions in the core microbiome that continued up to adulthood.

The age-related microbiota transformation was paralleled by functional alterations, e.g., changed metabolic pathways that reflected e.g., breastfeeding and increasing proportions of anaerobic species. Oral microbiotas differed by feeding mode and weakly by mode of delivery, but not gender, pacifier use or cleaning method or probiotic intake. The study shows that the saliva microbiota is diverse 2 days after birth and under transformation up to 5 years of age and beyond, with fluctuations possibly reflecting age-related environmental influences.

Read more: Nature